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American Studies 201QW

#NewWorldOrder: American Intersections, American Movement

Course Description

What is America? Who is American? In this course, we will hit the road, exploring these questions via interrogating and “standing-in” the intersections of modern American life. This course travels highways of inquiry, progressing in units organized around the connections between and textures of American aesthetic, social, and cultural movements in the latter half of the twentieth century. We will begin by exploring foundational aesthetic and social movements (transcendentalism, the Beats) before turning our attention to late twentieth century historical documents, aesthetic artifacts, and lived experiences located at the cultural intersections of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, nationality, regional identity, and (dis)ability. Finally, we will discuss the American environmental movement and its implications for our intersectional new world order. In this course, you will enhance and extend critical thinking, reading, and writing skills as well as develop other skills in digital technologies for your American Studies methodological toolkit.


Generally, American Studies 201 is an interdisciplinary, historically grounded introduction to contemporary approaches to American studies scholarship, with emphasis on issues of class, ethnicity, gender, and cross-cultural studies.

Required Texts


Jack Kerouac, On the Road: The Original Scroll, Penguin Classics (ISBN-10: 0143105469)


David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration, Vintage (ISBN-10: 0679732276)


Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing, Scribner (ISBN-10: 1501126075)

Semester Roadmap


Throughout the semester, we will journey through the following 8 movements and 2 micro-movements:


  • Movement 1: The Beats (#beats)

  • Movement 2: From #Liberation to #MeToo to #TimesUp

  • Movement 3: Gay Rights, Queer Revolution, Pride and ACTing UP (#queer)

  • Movement 4: #ProudtoBe: Revolutionizing Gender

  • Movement 5: Space and Place, Town-Region-Nation-World #glocal

  • Movement 6: From Civil Rights to #BlackLivesMatter

  • Movement 7: #Occupy, or Rethinking Capitalism, Rethinking Class

  • Movement 8: Migration and Immigration

  • Micro-Movement 1: American (Dis)Ability

  • Micro-Movement 2: #BeingGreen: the American Environmental Movement

Grade Distribution

Your grade will be based on the following:


  • Stoplight Assignment (Research Project): 45%

  • Essay 1: 15%

  • Essay 2: 15%

  • Reading Roadmaps: 10%

  • VRRA Film Review: 5%

  • Collaboration and Participation Grades: 10%


Please see Assignment Overview below for more details.

Assignment Overview
Individually Graded (Single Driver):


Reading Roadmap (Blog Posts: 7 of 18)

Throughout the semester, I want to ask that you keep an atlas roadmap journal of your reading responses. This roadmap serves as an archive of your semester-long thought process and evolution. Each week, you will have the option of publishing blog posts to our course Canvas discussion board. Please note the opportunities for blogging on the course calendar. You must complete at least 6 blog posts (or 1/3 of all available blogging opportunities) throughout the semester to receive credit. Please note: there is 1 required blog posts as noted in the calendar, which brings your total to 7.


VRRA Film Review (1 Required, 1 Extra Credit Possibility)*

Throughout the semester you will have the opportunity to compare and contrast two (or more) films in a review that converses with the themes of the given week. You will utilize methods of visual rhetorical (VR) analysis and Rogerian argumentation (RA) in your review. (We will discuss what this means in class during the assignment introduction). Please note the many possible options in the course calendar. There is also a handout online of the possible pairings. This essay is due within two weeks of the movement it corresponds to on the course calendar.

  • *Before you complete this assignment, please skim the following resource available online: “Introduction to the Study of Film Form and Representation,” America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies, edited by Harry M. Benshoff and Sean Griffin (Wiley-Blackwell: 2009): 3–20.

Essay 1: “Kerouac’s Keywords” (“The Original Scroll” Automatic Writing and Revision Assignment)

Introduced: 1/22

Due: 1/31

Essay 2: Final Reflection: “American (_________)?”
(Due during Exam week)

Throughout the semester, we will analyze various American cultural artifacts under my selection of the keyword “intersections.” We will also study various other “keywords” for American cultural studies via our readings and discussion. Questions to consider in this final 1,000-word reflective essay might include: What is your definition of “American Intersection”? How would you order this “new world” in which America finds itself? In your estimation, who “counts” as an American?


Return to your reading roadmap journal for clues as to how you will assess the following two intersecting steps.


1) Determine which keyword we have studied seems the most appropriate to you in describing the American experience in the current moment.

2) Posit a keyword of your own that has not been mentioned or discussed. 


Stoplight Assignment: Research Project Proposal, Process, Product, and Presentation

Introduced: 1/31

Midterm Project Proposal Due: 2/19

Meeting with Me: Week of 2/26

Peer Process Workshop: 4/9

Presentations: 4/18, 4/23, and 4/25


General Steps (More Details during Assignment Introduction):

Red: In drafting your final research project proposal, we will first analyze the formal conventions of grant proposals in the humanities and social sciences. Then, I will ask that you draft a 500-word proposal. This can be a “DigCrit,” meaning it will utilize traditional research methods and result in a digital product (short video, audio clip, research poster), or a “WritCrit,” meaning it will utilize traditional research methods and produce a written critique. It can also be a combination of the two, depending on what is discussed in the next step.


Yellow: Meeting with me to discuss proposal. In this one-on-one meeting, you will present your proposal to me, and we will discuss any issues you may have moving forward. We will consult on what is the best path for the overall success of your project.


Green: Following your meeting with me, you are free to complete your project within the parameters discussed. During the “green” phase, I expect you to be conversant with the campus resources (IT, Library staff) in order to effectively develop and complete your project. We will have a peer process workshop during class on 4/9.


Yielding the Floor: Presentations and Discussions: Final Three Classes. Present your project as if you were at a conference. Each student will need to ask a minimum of 2 questions of their peers during the presentations.

Collaboratively Graded (Participation and Group Road Trips):


Sonic Highways

Beginning with our opening class, I will invite each of you to contribute songs to our road trip playlist “Sonic Highways” on Spotify as the semester progresses. This will be an ongoing, low-stakes collaborative activity. When you think of a song, let me know or add it to the public playlist if you are able to access it.


College Collage Self-Portrait

Introduced: 2/14

Workshop: 2/19

Discussed and Presented: 2/21


In this you will make either a tactile or digital collage animating yourself as a college student. The composition mode, medium, and design are up to you. This is a process completion credit; however, art prizes will be decided by popular vote.


Postcards from the Edge 

This low-stakes in-class activity seeks to familiarize students with alternative forms of argument via visual aids (research posters that utilize charts and photographs, GIS technology mapmaking, and other toolkits). This is a process completion credit. We will only complete this activity if time permits.


Group Work

As you will note in the course calendar, throughout the semester you will be asked to present various cluster texts in small groups. Groups will be chosen/assigned in advance. You will read and coordinate your responses before class. On the date group work is listed, your group will present a brief summary of the text and background information on the author(s). (Note: You are not responsible for reading the short pieces assigned to other groups. Part of the goal of this exercise is to be able to articulate a story’s content, themes, and import to an audience who may not have read the piece in question).

Projected Course Calendar*

*All items in the calendar are subject to change at the professor’s discretion pending student needs.

* All daily reading amounts for each longer-form text are ENCOURAGED. I want you to read, but I do not want you to struggle.



Week One:

Tuesday 1/15

Course Introduction: “#NewWorldOrder: American Intersections, American Movement”

In Class Writing / Syllabus Overview: Review the syllabus and ask one question as if you were tweeting. Sign syllabus contract. #NWO


Thursday 1/17

#TranscendentalInterstates: Let’s Get Moving

Introduce: Sonic Highways


  • Keywords: “Citizenship,” “America,” “Culture” (PDFs online).

  • Reading: Henry David Thoreau, “Resistance to Civil Government” or “Civil Disobedience” (1849) (PDF online)

  • Reading, Tom Lewis, “Eisenhower’s Roads to Prosperity,” LA Times, December 26, 2009.


In Class: Mini-lecture on Transcendentalism. Discuss 1956 Federal Aid Highway Act.

Required Blog: Describe a memorable personal road trip experience.


Week Two:


Tuesday 1/22

Movement 1: The Beats (#beats)



Blog: Reading Roadmap

Introduce: “Kerouac’s Keywords” Essay Assignment.


Thursday 1/24


  • On the Road: The Original Scroll (200–270)

Week Three:


Tuesday 1/29


  • On the Road: The Original Scroll (271–343)


In class: Discuss past Library exhibit: “The Dream Machine: The Beat Generation & The Counterculture 1940–1975”

Listen to CBC Beats radio program. In-Class Blog Response.


Thursday 1/31



In Class: INTRODUCE Stoplight Assignment.

“Kerouac’s Keywords” Essay Due.


VRRA Option: On the Road (d. Walter Salles, 2012) paired with one of the following: The Motorcycle Diaries (d. Walter Salles, 2004) or Easy Rider (d. Dennis Hopper, 1969)

Week Four:

Tuesday 2/5

Movement 2: From #Liberation to #MeToo to #TimesUp



In Class: The Women’s Liberation Movement and Feminism Overview

Blog: Reading Roadmap


Thursday 2/7



Blog: Reading Roadmap


VRRA Options*: Thelma and Louise (d. Ridley Scott, 1991), “Telephone” (Lady Gaga ft. Beyoncé) and “Your Body” (Christina Aguilera) Music Videos. (Please feel free to include other music videos that you feel fit with Thelma and Louise).

*Consider reading, Keywords, “West” (, if you complete this VRRA option.


Week Five:


Tuesday  2/12

Movement 3: Gay Rights, Queer Revolution, Pride and ACTing UP (#queer)



Thursday 2/14


  • David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives, “Self Portrait in Twenty-Three Rounds” and “In the Shadow of the American Dream”


In Class: Look over Wojnarowicz’s art.

INTRODUCE College Collage Assignment.

Week Six:

Tuesday 2/19


  • David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives, “Being Queer in America: A Journal of Disintegration” and “Postcards from America”


In class:


Stoplight Proposal Due.


VRRA Option: Boys on the Side (d. Herbert Ross, 1995) and The Living End (d. Gregg Araki, 1992)


Thursday 2/21

Movement 4: #ProudtoBe: Revolutionizing Gender


In Class

Overview of MS HB 1523 and NC Religious Freedom Restoration Act language.

Watch New Deep South web episode, “Kayla.”


Blog: Reading Roadmap:

How do you perform your gender identity? What do you think about the terms “genderqueer,” “gender outlaw,” and “gender non-conforming”? Should laws like MS’s HB-1523 and NC’s RFRA remain on the books?


VRRA Options: 1) Paris is Burning (d. Jennie Livingston, 1991) paired with an episode of Pose (FX) or RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1); 2) Boys Don’t Cry (d. Kimberly Pierce, 1999) and Tangerine (d. Sean Baker, 2015)

Week Seven:

Tuesday 2/26

Movement 5: Space and Place, Town-Region-Nation-World #glocal




In class: “Postage Stamps” Lecture


Blog: Reading Roadmap


Thursday 2/28

Read: The American Lyric Revised:


VRRA option: Mississippi Burning (d. Alan Parker, 1988); Down in the Delta (d. Maya Angelou, 1998).


Blog: Reading Roadmap

Choose an American “region,” however you choose to define and limit it, and explore its cultural history and significance for you. You may, like me, choose the region of your origin. However, you might also explore unknown territory. Consult the following resources for inspiration (;;


TBD: Postcards from the Edge:  Micro-Mapping Exercise.

Week Eight:

Tuesday 3/5


Movement 6: From Civil Rights to #BlackLivesMatter



In Class: Worse than Slavery, Oshinksy opening quotations and “Prologue.” (PDFs online); Ward, NPR News Hour talking about Oshinsky.


Blog: Reading Roadmap


Thursday 3/7

Professor Traveling: NO CLASS.

Week Nine: (3/11–3/15)



Week Ten:


Tuesday 3/19


  • Day 1: Sing, Unburied, Sing (Chapters 1-3).


Blog: Reading Roadmap


Thursday 3/21


  • Day 2: Sing, Unburied, Sing (Chapters 4-6).

Blog: Reading Roadmap


Week Eleven:


Tuesday 3/26


  • Day 3: Sing, Unburied, Sing (Chapters 7-10).

Blog: Reading Roadmap


Thursday 3/28



Blog: Reading Roadmap


VRRA Option: The 13th (d. Ava DuVernay, 2016y. And at least one of the following in conversation: O, Brother Where Art Thou? (d. Joel and Ethan Cohen, 2000); Mudbound (d. Dee Rees, 2017); Fruitvale Station (d. Ryan Coogler, 2013); Black Panther (d. Ryan Coogler, 2018).



Week Twelve:

Tuesday 4/2

Movement 7: #Occupy, or Rethinking Capitalism, Rethinking Class



In Class: Selections from Herman Melville, “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (1856)


Blog: Reading Roadmap


VRRA Option: The Wolf of Wall Street (d. Martin Scorsese, 2013); The Big Short (d. Adam McKay, 2015)


Thursday 4/4

Movement 8: Migration and Immigration (Class Visitor TBD)


  • Keywords, “Latino, Latina, Latin@,” “Immigration,” “Migration,” “Border” (PDFs online)

  • Michael Chabon, SKIM “Imaginary Homeland” from Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands (2008) (PDF online) and “Say it in Yiddish

  • SKIM, Gloria Anzaldúa, “Bridge, Drawbridge, Sandbar, or Island,” (712–722) (PDF online)

  • Isabel Wilkerson, “Excerpt,” The Warmth of Other Suns




Case Studies: Group Presentations

  • Group One: Cuban-American Immigration: Achy Obejas, “We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?” (1994)(PDF online)

  • Group Two: Indian-American Immigration: Jhumpa Lahiri, “Sexy” from Interpreter of Maladies (1999)(PDF online)

  • Group Three: Haitian-American Immigration: Edwidge Danticat, “Without Inspection,” The New Yorker, May 14, 2018 and “Edwidge Danticat on her Caribbean Immigrant Experience

  • Group Four: Asian-American Immigration, Amy Tan, “Two Kinds,” from The Joy Luck Club (1989) (PDF online)


Blog: Reading Roadmap


VRRA Option: The Visitor (d. Tom McCarthy, 2007); Sin Nombre (d. Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2009).


Week Thirteen:

Tuesday 4/9

Stoplight Peer Process WORKSHOP DAY


Thursday 4/11

Micro-Movement 1: American (Dis)Ability



Blog: Reading Roadmap


VRRA Option: Monica and David (d. Alexandra Codina, 2009) and The Fundamentals of Caring (d. Rob Burnett, 2016).

Week Fourteen:

Tuesday 4/16

Micro-Movement 2: #BeingGreen: the American Environmental Movement



Blog: Reading Roadmap


VRRA Option: Both/either An Inconvenient Truth (d. Davis Guggenheim, 2006) and/or No Impact Man (d. Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein, 2009) paired with Leave No Trace (d. Debra Granik, 2018).


Thursday 4/18


Week Fifteen:

Tuesday 4/23



Thursday 4/25


  • Last day of class.



Essay 2, Final Reflection, Due During Exam Period: 5/1–3 and 5/6–8.

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